Storymoja marks 10 years with a festival at Museum

School children at a past Story Moja Festival event. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU

What you need to know:

  • Wangari will produce the children’s program for the festival.
  • There will be a mini book launch based on short stories that were shortlisted during a call-out competition to different schools to write on the festival’s theme.
  • The event has been held at the museum before — in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Storymoja Festival 2017 marks its 10th year in existence this year. The annual literature and arts festival will be held from September 27 to October 1 at the Nairobi National Museum with a theme ‘Black Peace.’

“Being the tenth year and the fact that we’re in Africa, we want something that we can discuss about us,” says Grace Wangari, known more by her performing name ‘Wangari the Storyteller.’

Wangari will produce the children’s program for the festival. There will be a mini book launch based on short stories that were shortlisted during a call-out competition to different schools to write on the festival’s theme. The event has been held at the museum before — in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“We find it to be a place of heritage and already has its own name in terms of protecting and nurturing culture and arts. It also has better spaces compared to when we held the festival at Nairobi Arboretum in 2015, where we had to put up a lot of structures,” says Wangari.

The festival organisers have booked the entire museum for the five days — the grounds, herb garden, Louis Leakey Hall and the amphitheatre. The first three days will see six different events taking place every hour for the morning and early afternoon periods.

“We have various masterclasses for people wanting to know more about a particular topic. We’ll have a session on history writing with Owaahh (Morris Kiruga), self-editing to make your work enticing to publishers, creative writing while Chuma Nwokolo will do a session on fictional writing that’s titled ‘The how that fiction built’. In the evenings we’ll have theatre performances: Too early for Birds based on Owaahh’s blog, Room of lost Names by Sitawa Namwalie, Theatre Company and Silvia Cassini will stage A man like You,” says Wangari.

There will be a difference in this year’s festival. Whereas the event made the weekday programs mainly geared to children’s events and the weekend ones to adults, this year they will incorporate more family-friendly events into the weekend. There will be a spelling bee on Saturday, September 30. The children registered by buying a book, from which the words they have to spell out will come. The children could only be registered by their parents, and not schools.

“Parents always complain that schools are not doing enough to empower their children’s reading abilities. This is how you’ll monitor your child, and at least have an idea of how to help,” says Wangari.

There will also be other family-oriented activities like painting, arts and crafts, and storytelling.

For adults, there will be a session on ‘The big conservation lie’ based on the need to protect the environment by having expansive, white-owned conservancies at the expense of locals in a particular area.

“We don’t know whether to pose that phrase as a statement or a question. We want to have different views from different people based on Mordecai Ogada’s expressions in a book authored by John Mbaria of the same title,” says Wangari.

Sunday will see the launch of the book Looking for Lakshmi by Rajan Soni. Bushra al-Fadil, winner of 18th Caine Prize for African Writing; officials from Djibouti’s ministry of Culture and Communication, who want to hold a similar event in their country; Abubakar Ibrahim from Nairobi, brought in through a partnership with Goethe Institut; Rasna Warah; Dr Mike Lockett from the US; Oswald Okaitei from Ghana, who was the artistes manager for the festival when it was held there, and various other artistes will also be in attendance.

Last year, the festival took place in Accra, Ghana, being the first time it has ever been held outside of Nairobi. Ghanaian poet and diplomat Kofi Awoonor was killed during the 2013 Westgate terror attack.

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